Los Angeles residents step up to help displaced Ukrainians and fighters at the front

Los Angeles firefighters take a group picture after loading four trucks with relief supplies for Ukraine on April 4, 2022, at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Church. (Photo by Adrian Bascope/Cronkite News)

Ukrainian emigres, volunteers and L.A.-area firefighters load relief supplies destined for Ukraine. (Photo by Adrian Bascope/Cronkite News)

A loaded Monrovia Fire Department truck waits to roll out from St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Los Angeles. (Photo by Adrian Bascope/Cronkite News)

St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Los Angeles is a collection and distribution center for donated items. (Photo by Adrian Bascope/Cronkite News)

Monrovia firefighter Igor Nisis shakes hands with a fellow Ukrainian emigre after loading trucks with supplies on April 4, 2022, at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Church. (Photo by Adrian Bascope/Cronkite News)

LOS ANGELES – Igor Nisis came to the United States in 2000 from Ukraine when he was just 13. On Monday, the Monrovia city firefighter was working alongside other immigrants, firefighters and concerned Angelenos to send relief supplies to his war-torn homeland.

“I do have a lot of childhood friends (in Ukraine), and some of them aren’t doing too well now,” Nisis said during a break from loading supplies at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Los Angeles. “One just got drafted and another just lost his home. He ended up living with his wife and two daughters in the forest for four days.”

Mass graves and apparent atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine, have shocked the world in recent days. Reporters for The Associated Press said dozens of bodies were seen around the city after Russian forces withdrew last week, leaving behind victims who “appeared to have been shot at close range, some in the head. At least two had their hands tied.”

Since the Feb. 24 start of Russia’s invasion, more than 10 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced or fled their country to take refuge in neighboring countries, including, Romania and Republic of Moldova, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Many of those who remain struggle for access to basic necessities.

“Whatever donations or volunteers can come and help would be great,” said Carla Apodaca, one of the nine volunteers who was loading supplies onto the trucks at St. Volodymyr. “It is very much needed because not only are we sending these things over there, but people in Ukraine are fighting for democracy and they are in the front lines, so they need whatever help we can get to them.”

The four fire department trucks were loaded with the relief supplies that included diapers, medical supplies and food; the church still had hundreds of boxes to be distributed later. Fire department officials have a connection with the California National Guard to help airlift those supplies to Ukraine.

“There’s 2,000 combat medic kits in those trucks,” Apodaca said, noting that such items can help frontline soldiers and possibly save their lives.

“I’ll be able to sleep a lot better tonight,” said volunteer Anthony Dixon, a firefighter with the Los Angeles Fire Department.

In other developments, the Los Angeles City Council is working to make Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, a sister city.

Relief efforts also are underway in Arizona. On Thursday, Ukrainian Consul General Dmytro Kushneruk is set to address a special joint session of the Legislature to explain his country’s needs.

Sports Reporter, Los Angeles

Adrian Bascope expects to graduate in summer 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Bascope is working for the L.A. sports bureau.